Harry Stevenson, president of Social Work Scotland, risks misleading your readers by overstating the message delivered by the Scottish Appeal Court in a recent judgment (“Ruling frees up social workers to get on with the job”, 14 April).
Their Lordships quashed the finding that two Edinburgh social workers had been guilty of contempt of court by suspending a mother’s supervised contact with her children.
But they didn’t express a view either way on whether the social workers had made the right decision in this case, only that it did not constitute a contempt of court.
So why should this dispute between a sheriff and two local authority social workers concerning arrangements for contact between a mother and her children who were in foster care concern Families Need Fathers Scotland?
First, the evidence heard by the sheriff and re-examined by the appeal court revealed a continuing confusion about the respective roles and authority of children’s hearings and the sheriff courts.
Secondly, a Dumfries Sheriff recently found a mother in contempt of court and imposed a jail sentence (suspended to allow the contact to resume as ordered).
In that case, the mother told the sheriff she had been advised by her social worker that she didn’t really need to comply with the court order “if she had concerns”.
Poor knowledge of the law and a willingness to second-guess the courts should therefore not be celebrated as examples of good social work practice.
Families Need Fathers Scotland